Cheers and Jeers

U.S. Delegation Tries Rewriting 1994 Cairo Pact

Saturday, December 21, 2002

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(WOMENSENEWS)--A U.S. government official told the United Nations that the United States "supports the sanctity of life from conception to natural death," according to a New York Times article.

The head of the United States delegation to the United Nations made the remark at the seven-day Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference in Bangkok. Nations attending the conference were discussing how to implement the 1994 Cairo agreement on family planning, which calls for improved health care, education and women's rights in developing nations. The U.S. approved the agreement in 1994 after days of negotiations over its failure to include anti-abortion language sought by the Vatican, conservative Latin American and Islamic nations.

The current U.S. delegation now has made repeated attempts to insert anti-abortion provisions into the agreement, arguing that the phrases "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights" should be deleted because they promote abortion. The United States also pressed to remove references to adolescent reproductive rights, arguing that the references promoted sexual activity among teenagers.

Administration officials also suggested adding language promoting "natural" family planning methods, such as abstinence.

The American delegation's attempts to make these changes were rejected by votes of 31 to 1 and 32 to 1. Also voted down was a U.S. attempt to add a "general reservation" denouncing abortion to the conference's final plan for action. The Cairo agreement already contains language stating, "In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning," according to The New York Times.

"Some participants at the conference sought to force the U.S. to agree to language supporting abortion. We are disappointed that so much attention at the conference was focused on this language rather than on improving the lives of people in the region," the U.S. State Department wrote in a statement.

However, Asian and European officials stated that the U.S. delegation was responsible for keeping the discussion focused on abortion.

 
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